Can my employer deduct money for any reason that he sees fit?

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Can my employer deduct money for any reason that he sees fit?

I work for a dentist who constantly states that he will deduct money from our checks. My husband got into an argument with my boss who kept me off the clock with my 2 year-old son because he said that I had to do a performance review without pay for 2 1/2 hours. He took my key away for this incident and told me that I wasn’t being fired, but that he was changing the locks and deducting it from my pay. Also, he has threatened to take money that patients fail to pay for treatment out of our pay. He says that this is legal and that restaurants can do it if someone leaves without paying. Is it legal?

Asked on November 11, 2010 under Employment Labor Law, Florida

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

First of all, your employer sounds like a real piece of work.  As for not being paid for a time spent in a performance review, you say that it was "off the clock".  If that means the you did not get extra pay for it then it may or may not be legal.  Are you an exempt or non-exempt employee?  If you are exempt employee, there is no upper limit on how many hours you could be asked to work - including time for mandatory meetings (exempt employees typically are: management - you supervise other people and have have considerable discretion in your work; professional - your job requires advanced or technical training like an engineer, accountant, lawyer, etc; administrator - if you they exercise considerable discretion in your position).  If not, then you are a non-exempt employee and work time is paid time.  If you are being ordered to go to the meetings (i.e. they not voluntarily), this it is considered to be compensable work time.  Your employer has to pay you for it.   Additionally, If it puts you into overtime, then it has to be paid at the overtime rate. 

With respect to being held finacially accountable for certain matters, the law does allow for empoyee liability in certain cases.  If there is an union/employment contract or stated employment policy indicating that the employer can charge back errors of this kind, then the employer may legally make a monetary claim against an employee.  However, even if it can require repayment for this type of loss, an employer typically cannot simply deduct from an employee's paycheck - payroll deductions are subject to a number of limitations and the employee may be able to make repayment by writing a check, etc. to their employer (as opposed to automatic paycheck withholding).

Note:  Without a previous agreement requiring repayment, an employer may not force the employee to repay money for a loss.  However, in an "at will" employment situation (and most employment relationships are), an employer can fire an employee for not making repayment. In fact an at-will employer can fire an employee for any reason or no reason at all.


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